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[Illuminated manuscript on vellum]
Written and illuminated in Northern France, doubtless Paris, 2nd quarter of 13th Century (most likely c. 1240).
The magnificent manuscript offered here, comprising the most significant part of the New Testament from a finely illuminated 13th-century 'pocket format' Vulgate Latin Bible, consists of 75 consecutive vellum leaves, i.e. 150 pages, and contains:
Two interesting idiosyncrasies in the order of the books in this codex should be noted: the Pauline Epistles follow immediately after the Gospels (the Acts, evidently, followed the Hebrews in this Bible); the order of the Pauline Epistles is standard except Colossians follow 1 and 2 Thessalonians (which come immediately after Philippians). Both "irregularities" in the order are occasionally found in early Vulgate manuscripts, such as the Codex Fuldensis. For instance, out of all the Vulgate MSS. in Trinity College "in seven the Epistles of St. Paul come before the Acts, [and] one of these has Colossians after Thessalonians." (M.Berger, History of the Vulgate, in Hermathena, Vol. 9, Trinity College, Dublin, 1897, p.55)
In addition, this manuscript contains many important prologues characteristic to the early manuscript tradition of the Vulgate, namely:
This magnificent manuscript Bible fragment contains 39 VERY FINE ILLUMINATED INITIALS, most of which have long marginal (often half-page or three-quarter-page long) extensions incorporating lacertine animals or grotesque monsters. The illumination is tentatively (but with high probability) attributed to the atelier of Gautier Lebaube, which was active in Paris ca. 1240. Gauthier Lebaube clearly specialized in Bibles (of the fifteen manuscripts attributed to his atelier by Branner, thirteen are bibles). Lebaube's productions were in high demand, and he attracted luxurious commissions from the most noble clients: the two illuminated leaves in Glazier Collection with the Tree of Affinity and Consanguinity (one of which bears the artist's signature) may have been made for St Louis himself). The illumination of our manuscript shows definite resemblance to the initials in the finely illuminated Bible produced by the Lebaube atelier, which was given to the Abbey of St Victor in Paris by Queen Blanche of Castille (d. 1252), now in Bibliothèque Nationale de France (MS Lat.14397).
Branner notes that the hallmark of the Lebaube ornamental style is "the frequent use of small animals, birds and monsters [...]. Animals, particularly dogs seem to be [...] ubiquitous [...] Hybrids [i.e.] dragons or monsters with human [...] account for a number of images. Perhaps more characteristic, however, are the animal-headed birds that form tails to the initials." (op. cit. p.73)
The manuscript is written in very small and neat gothic bookhand, sometimes referred to as pearl script, about which Derolez writes: "'Perlschrift' (pearl script) is an extremely small size of Textualis, developed by scribes in the thirteenth century especially to copy the famous 'Parisian pocket Bibles'. Although it was intended to be a luxurious high-level script, and thus one might expect to call it Textualis Formata, its letter forms, because they are so small, are simplified, often irregular (incorporating, for example, several shapes of a), and have few gothic refinements. Where these do occur, as in the bifurcation at the top of the ascenders, they tend to be exaggerated." (Albert Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books, p.100)
The rather interesting ruling pattern of this manuscript with four pairs of horizontal "through lines" is also worth noting. According to Derolez (op. cit., p.38), "during the late twelfth and the thirteenth centuries there seems to have been a special predilection for intricate ruling patterns (at least for manuscripts belonging to the higher level of execution). Double, triple or quadruple through lines may appear at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the written area, and supplementary lines were added in the margins, thus creating a complicated grid of horizontal and vertical lines which evokes the buttresses, flying buttresses and pinnacles of gothic architecture. While some of these lines could be used for the writing of running headlines [etc.], others, such as the through lines in the middle of the page had o practical purpose at all. Such practices, as a whole, may be interpreted as playing an important role in the decoration of the page."
In thirteenth-century the theologians at the University of Paris established what was to become the standard form of the Latin Bible. In the context of the new needs of the Paris classroom and the development of preaching, the standardized "Paris" Bible took its final shape by about 1230. It includes a canonical selection and fixed order of the books, prologues, running titles, and the division of the books into the numbered chapters established by Stephen Langton around 1205 and still universally employed.
The so-called pocket Bibles produced in the thirteenth century in Paris as well as several other European cultural centers, such as Oxford and Bologna, appear to have arisen to address the specific context of preaching and the evangelistic mission of the friars, especially the Dominicans and the Franciscans. In this context a complete, portable text of the Bible was a great advantage. As in the case of modern Bibles, that crucial portability was achieved through the use of tiny script and pages of lightweight, very thin vellum.
"It was at this time (c.1230) that the very small "pocket" Bibles first came to be manufactured. Portability [...] was the chief criterion and reflects the new need in university circles to carry one's Bible from place to place; students in Paris were in fact required to bring Bibles to class." (Branner, op. cit., p.10 n.45)
A fine illuminated manuscript on vellum containing 75 consecutive leaves, i.e. 150 pages (the first being blank), followed by a vellum blank leaf at rear, forming a self-contained part of a manuscript Bible in Latin (Vulgate) and containing complete text of the Four Gospels, the Pauline Epistles and the epistle to the Hebrews, all with prologues.
Text begins on verso of the first leaf, the recto being blank.
Leaves measure 155 mm x 104 mm, justification 102 mm x 68 mm; written in double columns of 44 lines per page, in a small gothic bookhand (textualis) in dark-brown ink.
Ruled in ink with 45 horizontals, plus two additional horizontals in top margins for running titles, and four verticals (all four verticals, the top two and bottom two horizontals, as well as the pair of horizontals within top margin are 'through lines' spanning entire leaf.
The first line of text is written below the top ruled line (a common scribal practice which began around 1210-20, cf. Derolez p.39).
Running titles and chapter numbers (roman numerals) in capitals alternating in red and blue. Many penwork initials in red and blue (mostly 1- or 2-line) at chapter openings, often with marginal extensions.
Thirty-nine beautifully illuminated initials of various sizes (opening every book and preface) of various sizes painted in red, cobalt blue, light blue, pink, purple, green, orange, white and brown with stylized floral and foliate decorations. About half of all the illuminated initials have marginal extensions (most half to three-quarter of a page) incorporating grotesques or lacertine animals or monsters (most with serpentine bodies and wings; two with human faces). Four of the initials are additionally embellished with gold leaf.
Many leaves have medieval manuscript marginalia in several medieval hands, most very neat and tiny, most cursive, some more formal; most notations appear to be theological or liturgical commentaries (have not been studied).
Binding: fine late 17th-century Cambridge-style paneled calf, with boards decorated in blind (neatly rebacked in matching modern calf, spine with raised bands, tooled in blind).
The line numbering by 5s down the middle margin in 13th- or 14th-century hand found on every page of the manuscript, is only associated with Oxford, indicating that this bible was in Oxford already by late 14th century and was used there, probably by a Franciscan. (See M. B. Parkes, Books and Aids to Scholarship of the Oxford Friars, in A. C. de la Mare and B. C. Barker-Benfield, Manuscripts at Oxford: An Exhibition in Memory of Richard William Hunt, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1980, pp. 57-9; also Mary A. and Richard H. Rouse, Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts, U. of Notre Dame P, 1991, pp. 234-36.). This important observation was kindly brought to our attention by one of our clients, a world authority on medieval paleography.
Thomas Martin (1697-1771) of Palgrave, Suffolk, aka 'Honest Tom' Martin, a noted English antiquarian and lawyer; with his signature to top front pastedown, and a note in his hand to front free endpaper.
Thomas Barber (d.1785), an antiquary and an officer of the Custom-House at Yarmouth, Norfolk, and Martin's friend; with his armorial engraved bookplate in Chippendale style.
Emily Bagot, with her Signature and a note "given to me by papa" (probably daughter of reverend Richard Bagot (1782-1852), who was, at various times, Canon of Windsor, Dean of Canterbury, Bishop of Oxford, and Bishop of Bath).
Very Good antiquarian condition. Binding slightly rubbed, very professionally and sympathetically rebacked, with minor discreet repairs to corners. Some moderate hand- and dust-soiling, mainly marginal. One leaf (f.31) with a blank piece lacking (no loss of text) from bottom margin due to original vellum flaw. Closed tear to outer margin of f.55 (without loss): f.60 with old repair of tear in bottom margin (without loss). First two leaves with wear and minor chipping at bottom edge. Some scattered neat marginalia in several late medieval hands. Top margin cropped somewhat close by an early binder. Occasional light 'bleeding through' from some of the illuminated initials on the other side of a leaf. In all, a clean, solid, and extremely pleasing manuscript forming a very important part of a superbly illuminated medieval Parisian "pocket Bible" (in an attractive English binding and with an interesting English provenance).
Please click on thumbnails below to see larger images.